Translating user-generated content

translating user-generated content, social media translation

In recent years user-generated content (UGC) has become an important part of many companies’ marketing assets. As it sounds, this is the content about your brand, services or products that consumers are creating on your behalf. It make take the form of a social media update thanking your customer services team for their support, a review on TripAdvisor raving about their experience, or a personal blog post extolling the virtues of your brand.

This content is important because it influences others. As consumers we are searching for content that validates what a brand says about itself. Often we’re looking for recommendations from other customers and also evidence that a product or service is right for us. Consumers trust unsolicited content from customers more than the marketing messages a company communicates.

As consumers, we’re also interested in aspirational content that reflects our lifestyles and desires; this may take the form of a celebrity endorsing a product. However this content is not quite the same as unsolicited UGC as often there is some kind of financial incentive for them to do so.

The value of translating user-generated content

User-generated content provides a great opportunity for companies looking to reach new markets and new customers. By translating user-generated content into your target language you provide social proof to consumers in that market that customers rate your brand highly.

This is especially valuable if your company is new to that market and your business is not a well-known international brand.

Many review sites like TripAdvisor use machine translation to automatically translate user reviews into different languages. So if someone in Russia visits the site they will see all the content in Russian, even if the reviews were originally left in English. Similarly social media translations are often automated depending on the country a follower is using the platform in.

However, as user-generated content tends to be quite informal and doesn’t always use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, the results from machine translation can be a little erratic. Which is why many companies want to take control of UGC to ensure that it reflects accurately what the customer actually said.

Moreover once translated, reviews and quotes can be repurposed on your translated website as testimonials, or turned into social media posts to promote your brand.

Tips for translating user-generated content

The most important thing about UGC is its’ authenticity. This is what people are actually saying about your brand or product, sharing their unique opinions with potential customers.

Therefore it is essential to maintain the integrity of the original content, so that those potential customers trust the translated text. This means retaining personal touches, as well as the tone and style, and even the imperfections. Editing or amending a review to ‘polish’ it, will devalue the message and it will lose its genuine appeal.

Therefore when translating user-generated content there are two key elements that need to be retained:

  1. The author’s personality and voice – it should sound like it’s written by a customer, not a copywriter
  2. The emotional intent – if someone has felt strongly enough about your brand to write a review or comment they will be expressing an emotion of some kind. The translation must evoke the same emotions – passion, enthusiasm, delight, gratitude etc. – and messaging as the original

Your global UGC strategy

As user-generated content is such hot property it makes sense to have a strategy in place for translating it as it’s generated. This should include guidelines for identifying the right kind of UGC to translate, based on what is most effective in the market.

Naturally you will also need support with translating the content. If your company has native speakers or fluent bilingual employees either working here in the UK or overseas, they may be able to handle these kinds of translations. However, it is essential that they understand the importance of retaining the integrity of the content, and often this is best handled by someone with specific user-generated content translation experience.

Companies that have large volumes of UGC to translate will benefit from machine translation tools. Over time this creates a database of words and terminology commonly used by customers when talking about your company or products, and can speed up translation times and save money. Human translators then provide post-editing support to ensure that the translation is accurately translated and the emotion and personality is retained.

For more advice on translating this valuable content and using it effectively in new markets, get in touch with our team. We’re happy to discuss how you can get the most out of user-generated content translation and share our advice on marketing translations in general.